When Kyle DeGregorio resigned as the Belle Vernon High School boys basketball coach last month to become the girls coach at Baldwin, the BVA school board andathletic director Matt Humbert were looking to make a splash hire.
Joe Salvino, the legendary Hall of Fame coach who has led the Monessen boys to a pair of PIAA championships, six WPIAL titles and 639 wins in 34 years with the Greyhounds, was hired Tuesday night to take over the Belle Vernon program.
Salvino was hired by unanimous vote at a salary of $9,029.
Salvino said his decision to leave the only school he has called home and take on a new challenge at this point in his life was not an easy one to make but was too good to pass on.
“I just thought it was an opportunity, at this time in my career, that I should take advantage of,” he said. “I am not going there to win games – I want to win championships.
“The kids will have to put the effort in. I have to learn who they are and they have to learn who I am. Everyone has to adapt.”
Humbert, who also is Belle Vernon’s football coach, is happy with the hire.
“We are excited to welcome a coach that has won two state championships and six WPIAL titles,” he said. “Having a local coach with a tremendous pedigree step in and take the reigns of our program will hopefully allow for a smooth transition.”
Salvino will replace DeGregorio, who led the Leopards to an 18-7 record last season and consecutive Section 3-AAAA titles.
“Kyle did a great job for us and took the program to new heights,” Humbert said. “We are hoping Joe can come in and instantly pick up where Kyle left off and further develop this program.”
Salvino has always used a full-court system to take advantage of the athletes he had at Monessen, and he said that is similar to the system DeGregorio utilized.
“Kyle ran a fast-paced offense and played man-to-man defense, so I am sure I will be satisfied in what we do,” he said. “Basketball is supposed to be fun and I want it to be fun for (the players). If they have fun, then they will be more involved.”
So how did Salvino’s move to Belle Vernon happen?
“Matt and I spoke and he asked me if I was interested,” Salvino said. “I said I was but had to think about it. He gave me a week.
“I wasn’t going to take it, and it’s as if I thought too much about it, but then Matt and I spoke again and I asked if I could still apply.”
Salvino said that Humbert is a big reason as to why he is making the move.
“Matt is a good person and one of the main reasons I am headed there is how he handled things,” Salvino said. “He made the entire process comfortable for me.”
Salvino’s concern about the future of his alma mater also factored into the decision.
“No one knows what the future of Monessen holds and something can happen by the end of next year and not be around,” he said. “I am not wishing anything bad, but you never know.”
Salvino’s emotions wavered daily from staying at Monessen to taking the Belle Vernon job.
“I believe that if you think long, then you think wrong. For years, I have told my players that you only have so many opportunities in life and the opportunities won’t come back,” explained Salvino, who has had interest shown in him by Belle Vernon in the past.
“I don’t want to wonder ‘What if?’ People don’t take chances sometimes and they regret it. They stay satisfied and don’t want to take that chance.”
Salvino said leaving Monessen is one of the hardest things he has ever had to do.
“I coached there for 34 years and leaving the kids is hard,” he said. “(Monessen athletic director) Gina Naccarato and I work really well together and everyone trusted me with things that I thought should happen.”
Cam Nusser and Jared Hartman, both juniors next season, are the only returning Belle Vernon players who started games last season. They also are the only returning players with significant varsity experience.
“It is exciting and I feel like I am starting over,” said Salvino. “I can’t wait to get to know the kids and this is a new challenge.”
“If things work out, then fine. If not, then I tried, will retire and go on my way,” he said. “But I am going to do my best with this opportunity that I have been given.”